Norway charges former Iranian diplomat in 1993 assassination attempt

William NygaardTHE GOVERNMENT OF NORWAY has pressed charges against two men, among them a former diplomat in the Iranian embassy in Oslo, for the attempted murder of a high-profile Norwegian publisher in 1993. The case centers on an attempt against the life of William Nygaard, a Norwegian publisher and former director of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.

In 1989 Nygaard was behind the publication of the Norwegian edition of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses. The bestselling novel was condemned as blasphemous by conservative Muslims, due to its portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad. In the spring of 1989, Iranian Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (decree) sentencing to death the novel’s author and all those who had a role in publishing the book, and urging followers of Islam to execute them at will. Nygaard began receiving threats almost immediately, and was given police protection for almost a year.

On the morning of October 11, 1993, Nygaard was shot and left for dead outside his house in the northern outskirts of Oslo. He survived after being rushed to the hospital, where he remained for several months during what became a long and painstaking period of recovery. The police was unable to find the culprits of the attempted murder, and the investigation stalled after a few years, as it was unclear whether the motives were political or personal. Nygaard consistently argued that the attempt on his life was politically motivated.

Nygaard’s claims were revived in 2018, when the Norwegian Police Service said it had pressed charges against two individuals for the attempted murder of the publisher. No information was publicized about the identities of the two suspects. However, a clue emerged when a spokeswoman for Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service said that the incident “was about more than an attack on one man” and represented “a violent attempt to shut down free speech”.

Since then there have been rumors about the identities of the two suspects. Last week, Iranian dissidents living abroad began claiming that one of the men was a Lebanese national, and the other a retired Iranian diplomat. On Friday, a report by the Norwegian Broadcasting Company stated that the Iranian former diplomat in question is Mohammad Nik-Khah. The report added that Nik-Khah served as first secretary of the Iranian embassy in Norway when Nygaard was shot, and that he now lives in Iran.

Over the weekend, a press statement issued by the Iranian embassy in Oslo confirmed that Nik-Khah served as a diplomat there in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But the statement claimed that Nik-Khah had left Norway several days prior to the attempted killing of Nygaard.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 November 2021 | Research credit: LCP | Permalink

Turkey announces arrest of Russian and Israeli alleged spies following crackdown

MIT Turkey

THE GOVERNMENT OF TURKEY has announced the arrest of 21 individuals, among them foreign citizens, whom it accuses of “political and military espionage” on behalf of Israel, and of planning assassinations ordered by Russia. Turkish authorities released separately two statements on Thursday, announcing the arrests of alleged spies for Israel and Russia respectively. The two sets of arrests do not appear to be connected, despite the fact that they were announced on the same day.

Six alleged assassins operating under Russian command were arrested on October 8 in Antalya, a tourist resort located on Turkey’s southern coast. Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) said the group includes four Russians, a Ukrainian and an Uzbek. They allegedly planned to kill a number of Chechen separatists who live in Turkey. In preparation of the alleged assassinations, group members “were in the process of obtaining weapons”, according to Turkish government prosecutors.

A court in Istanbul has reportedly ruled that the members of the alleged assassination team should remain behind bars, pending a trial for espionage. Meanwhile the a Russian government spokesman said on Thursday that the Kremlin was “not aware” of any Russian citizens having been arrested on espionage charges in Turkey, adding that the Russian embassy in Ankara had not been informed of any such arrests.

Meanwhile, in a separate announcement issued on Thursday, the MİT disclosed the arrests of 15 members of an alleged spy ring for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. Turkish media reports said the 15 individuals had been arrested in a series of raids that took place across four Turkish provinces on October 7, following a year-long counterintelligence operation. Turkish authorities claim that the spy ring monitored the activities of Palestinians living in Turkey and provided the information to the Mossad, in return “for tens of thousands of dollars and euros”. The Israeli government has not commented on these reports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 October 2021 | Permalink

Iran denies murder plot after alleged assassin caught with gun and silencer in Cyprus

Nicosia Cyprus

ISRAEL HAS ACCUSED IRAN of being behind a plot to kill Israeli citizens in the Republic of Cyprus, following the arrest of a man who was reportedly found carrying a gun fitted with a silencer in the Cypriot capital Nicosia. The man reportedly entered Cyprus on a flight that landed at Larnaca International Airport last week. He is believed to be a 38-year-old Azeri national, who allegedly entered Cyprus using a Russian passport.

Cypriot police kept tabs on the suspected assassin as soon as he entered Cyprus, according to reports. IntelNews hears that the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad may have been behind a tip given to the Cypriots about the man’s presence on the island. In the days following his arrival, the suspect crossed several times into the Turkish-occupied northern region of Cyprus, using his Russian passport and “trying to keep a low profile”, according to Israeli media reports.

The Azeri man was eventually arrested in Nicosia, shortly after entering from northern Cyprus at the Agios Dometios checkpoint. Some local news reports suggest that he was found to be carrying a gun fitted with a silencer, and that he was planning to target a number of prominent Israeli business people who live on the island. Reports in Israel claim that the alleged assassin’s primary target was Teddy Sagi, an Israeli investor who owns online gambling platforms, as well as properties in the United Kingdom and Cyprus. He is believed to be among Israel’s richest citizens.

Iran has vehemently denied Israel’s claim that Cypriot police averted “an act of terror [that] was orchestrated by Iran against Israeli business people” in Cyprus. However, the Israeli government’s announcement did not go into details, while Israeli officials refused to confirm that Teddy Sagi was the target of the alleged operation.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 October 2021 | Permalink

Israel killed Iranian nuclear scientist using advanced robotic device, report claims

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh

ISRAEL’S PRIMARY EXTERNAL INTELLIGENCE agency, the Mossad, assassinated the lead military scientist behind Iran’s nuclear program using a remote-controlled robot, according to a new report. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s elite paramilitary force. He was assassinated along with his wife on November 27, 2020, in an armed assault that took place in the eastern outskirts of Tehran. The attack, which lasted no more than 3 minutes, took place in broad daylight. No arrests have been made in connection with the killings.

Shortly after Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, Iranian authorities claimed that the Mossad had orchestrated his killing, and Iranian media carried reports about the alleged identities of the killers. But in February of this year, the London-based weekly newspaper The Jewish Chronicle claimed that the Mossad had killed the IRGC general using a “one-ton remote-controlled gun smuggled into Iran piece by piece over eight months”. There has been no confirmation of that report, and the details behind Fakhrizadeh’s killing remain vague.

On Saturday, however, an article by The New York Times’ Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi supported the view that the Fakhrizadeh was killed by a remote-controlled advanced robotic device. According to the new report, the apparatus had been fitted by Mossad operatives into the bed of a blue Zamyad, a popular Iranian-built Nissan pickup truck model. A Belgian-made FN MAG 7.62-mm machine gun was hidden beneath decoy construction material and a heavy tarpaulin, said the article. It repeated the The Jewish Chronicle’s claim that the device had been smuggled into Iran by Mossad operatives in pieces, over an extensive period of time.

According to Bergman and Fassihi, Fakhrizadeh’s assassins operated remotely, and there was no Mossad hit squad on the ground in Tehran when the assassination occurred. In fact, the Mossad team that installed the advanced robotic apparatus “had already left Iran” by the time the trigger was pulled. Artificial intelligence was employed to ensure that the remote sniper’s actions were successful. However, the explosives that were meant to destroy the apparatus following Fakhrizadeh’s assassination partly malfunctioned, thus allowing the Iranians to access the partly damaged vehicle, machine gun and control mechanism, said the Times.

In an article published late on Saturday, Israeli English-language newspaper The Jerusalem Post said it was in a position to “confirm the accuracy of the Times report.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 20 September 2021 | Permalink

Haiti assassination probe uncovers more plotters with United States ties

Jovenel MoïseThe United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has said that at least one of the assailants who killed Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, last week, had been its confidential source in the past. It also appears that one of the middlemen of the operation is a Haitian-born pastor based in the US state of Florida. It was he, according to Haitian police, who hired the assassins through a Venezuelan security company headquartered in Florida. However, this is disputed by the alleged middleman himself, who claims he was “duped”.

In a statement published on Monday, the DEA confirmed media reports that at least one of the men who participated in the assassination of President Moise was “at times […] a confidential source to the DEA”. It also appears that, following the dramatic raid on Moïse’s residence in Port Au-Prince on July 7, the suspect contacted his former DEA handler, who urged him to surrender to the Haitian authorities. The DEA is now believed to be co-operating with the Haitian National Police in its investigation of the assassination.

Additionally, at a press conference held on Sunday, Haitian police officials announced the arrest of an alleged middleman in the murky plot, who allegedly assembled the team of assassins. They named the suspect as Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 63, a native of Haiti who has lived in Florida for over two decades. Although a Christian pastor by profession, Sanon reportedly began to speak publicly against what he regarded as Haiti’s corrupt political elite in the months after the disastrous 2010 earthquake on the island.

According to the Haitian National Police, Sanon recruited the assassins using a “Florida-based Venezuelan security firm”. He then traveled to Haiti “with political intentions”, in the words of Haitian officials. He allegedly used a private airplane, which carried, apart from himself, members of what would eventually become the assassination squad. Haitian officials said that the team was initially assembled as Sanon’s bodyguard, but their mission eventually changed to encompass a “hit-squad” role. One of the alleged assassins is believed to have contacted Sanon several times on his cell phone while being on the run following the assassination.

Interestingly, however, the Associated Press reported that a Florida-based friend of Sanon claimed the 63-year-old pastor had been “duped by people claiming to represent the US State and Justice departments”. These people allegedly told Sanon they wanted to install him as president of Haiti after removing Moise. In any case, Haitian officials do not see Sanon as the mastermind of the operation; however, with Sanon now under arrest, more information about what authorities refer to as “the intellectual authors” of the assassination plot is likely to emerge.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 July 2021 | Permalink

Most of the commandos who killed Haiti’s president were Colombians, police says

Jovenel MoïseNEARLY ALL MEMBERS OF the heavily armed commando team that killed Haiti’s President on July 7 were Colombian citizens, while several served in the military, according to the Haitian National Police. The attack on the president’s residence, located in the Pétion-Ville suburb of Port-au-Prince, began after midnight local time on Wednesday, when a convoy of at least five vehicles carrying dozens of men arrived at the scene.

The men, described as “highly trained and heavily armed”, quickly exited the vehicles and opened fire on the security detail of President Jovenel Moïse. Many witnesses described the assailants as foreign in appearance and speaking either English or Spanish —languages that are not widely spoken in Haiti, where the local languages are Creole and French. These reports were eventually confirmed when the Haitian National Police identified two of the assailants as Joseph Vincent, 55, and James Solages, 35, both American citizens and residents of Miami’s Little Haiti community. Interestingly, Solages describes himself as a “certified diplomatic [security] agent” and is believed to have served as head of bodyguards at the Embassy of Canada in the Haitian capital.

Late on Thursday, Léon Charles, chief of Haiti’s National Police, announced that 17 suspected assailants had been captured alive, seven killed during the raid, while at least eight others remained on the run. He added that all of captured assailants are foreign and all but two are Colombian citizens. Of those, several are retired members of the Military Forces of Colombia. Overall, 26 members of the commando team were Colombian citizens, said Charles. He did not provide further information. Later that same evening, the Associated Press reported that Colombian President Ivan Duque instructed his country’s military leadership to “cooperate in the investigation” by the Haitian authorities.

Importantly, the precise motive of the assailants remains unclear. The attack was almost certainly planned well in advance, and was part of a broader plan to eliminate Moïse, who is championed and reviled by Haitians in equal measure. But the attack also appears to have been combined with an effort to justify the killing, possibly by exposing negative information about the late president following the attack. This would explain why the assailants did not leave Moïse’s residency immediately after assassinating him, but instead ransacked nearly every room of the premises, apparently looking for documents and computer drives.

It is also puzzling how such a heavily armed team, whose members were described by Haitian authorities as “well-trained professionals” did not appear to have an exit plan following the raid on the president’s residence. Their attack was sophisticated enough to penetrate Moïse’s heavy security detail, and even reach its target in a safe room inside the building, reportedly without suffering any losses. However, several assailants were shot dead or injured in firefights that erupted long after the attack. Eventually all but eight members of a 28-member commando team were either killed or captured.

In the hours after the president’s assassination, Haiti was placed under martial law by the Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, a Moïse ally who appears to have the backing of the military. This means little, however, in a country where rival armed gangs control numerous neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince and other major cities and towns. Some of these gangs are affiliated with the country’s two main political parties, the Haitian Tèt Kale Party (which supported Moïse) and the Alternative League for Haitian Progress and Emancipation, which refused to acknowledge Moïse as the legitimate head of state following the national election of 2016.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 July 2021 | Permalink

US Justice Department and CIA may intervene in Saudi lawsuit to protect secrets

Saad al-Jabri

THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT of Justice and the Central Intelligence Agency may intervene in a civil lawsuit filed by an exiled Saudi spy against the oil kingdom’s de facto ruler, in order to protect state secrets. In a 106-page lawsuit, filed last year with the US District Court in Washington, DC, Dr. Saad al-Jabri claims that Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, dispatched members of his “personal mercenary group”, known as the Tiger Squad, to North America, in order to assassinate him.

Al-Jabri was a courtier of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch, King Abdulaziz. Bin Nayef, who was widely expected to be Saudi Arabia’s next king, eventually appointed al-Jabri Minister of State and made him his senior adviser on matters of security and intelligence —in essence his spy chief. But al-Jabri’s standing changed suddenly in 2015, when King Abdullah died and was succeeded by King Salman. Salman then named his son, Mohammed bin Salman, as his successor, effectively usurping al-Jabri’s mentor and protector, Prince bin Nayef. Within weeks, al-Jabri had been fired, while his patron, bin Nayef had gone under house arrest. Fearing for his life, al-Jabri took his eldest son, Khalid, and escaped to Canada in the middle of the night. They remain there to this day.

Bin Salman’s lawyers have dismissed al-Jabri’s lawsuit as baseless, and accuse the former spy chief of embezzling $3.4 billion from Saudi state coffers under the pretense of funding security programs. Al-Jabri’s lawyers have told the court that an “examination of the counterterrorism and national security activities of the United States government” may be necessary in order to demonstrate that their client has not embezzled state funds.

This development has US government officials worried, according to The Washington Post’s well-sourced David Ignatius. He reports that, in April of this year, the US Department of Justice filed a document in a federal court in Massachusetts, in which it outlines its plans to intervene in al-Jabri’s lawsuit against bin Salman. According to the Department of Justice, al-Jabri’s legal team may intend “to describe information concerning alleged national security activities”, which is something the US government would like to prevent.

According to Ignatius, the Department of Justice could invoke the rarely used “state secrets privilege”, which allows the US government to refuse to disclose information when ordered to do so by a court of law, if there is a “reasonable danger” that doing so could threaten US national security. Ignatius added that the Central Intelligence Agency is also looking into whether it could resist a judge’s orders to disclose information pertaining to the case of al-Jabri.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 24 May 2021 | Permalink

Austria expels alleged assassin accused of working for Turkish government

Berivan AslanAUSTRIAN AUTHORITIES HAVE REPORTEDLY expelled from the country an Italian citizen of Turkish origin, who was allegedly hired by the Turkish government as an assassin. The man, Feyyaz Öztürk, 53, reportedly turned himself in to Austrian intelligence last year. According to the British press, Öztürk claimed he had been hired by the Turkish government to assassinate Berivan Aslan (pictured). Aslan, who is of Kurdish heritage, is a Viennese parliamentarian and a leading critic of Turkey’s treatment of its minority Kurdish population.

News reports claimed Öztürk’s mission was to terrorize members of the Kurdish expatriate community in Austria and elsewhere in Europe, who tend to be vocal critics of the Turkish government’s human rights record. British newspaper The Telegraph claimed that Öztürk had been tasked by Ankara to “ensure [Aslan] was hurt or died”, so that “other politicians get the message”. Öztürk also claimed that Turkish intelligence officials had blackmailed him in order to force him to carry out Alsan’s assassination. Moreover, he had been asked to kill two more Austrian public figures who are of Kurdish origin.

However, Öztürk reportedly aborted the assassination operation in March of last year, after he broke his leg in an accident during a trip to the northern Italian city of Rimini. Austrian prosecutors confirmed that an official investigation on Öztürk had concluded. It found that he had carried out “military espionage on behalf of a foreign state”, but did it not identify the state. Turkey has strongly denied that its intelligence agencies have any connection with Öztürk.

Öztürk’s espionage trial has been scheduled for February 4. However, according to Austrian law, he cannot be held in pre-trial detention and must be freed prior to his day in court. Rather than allow him freedom of movement inside Austria, the authorities decided to expel him to Italy. Öztürk’s lawyer said yesterday that her client had been designated “an imminent danger to public security” and taken to the Italian border shortly before Christmas.

The lawyer added that Öztürk wishes to return to Austria to attend his trial in February. There are suspicions among intelligence observers that the Austrian state would prefer Öztürk not to return to Austria, so as to avoid exposing espionage methods and sources in court. Meanwhile, Aslan said she remains under police protection, which was initially extended to her last year, when the alleged assassination plot against her became known.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 13 January 2021 | Permalink

Saudi crown prince dismisses US lawsuit brought by ex-spy official as ‘baseless’

Saad al-JabriA LAWSUIT FILED IN a United States court by a Saudi former senior intelligence official, accuses Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman of planning an illegal assassination on Canadian soil. But in a new court filing, the crown prince denies the accusation and claims that it is an attempt to distract attention from the alleged crimes carried out by the plaintiff.

The target of the alleged assassination attempt is Dr. Saad al-Jabri, who rose through the ranks of the Saudi aristocracy in the 1990s, under the tutelage of his patron, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef. Prince bin Nayef is the grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch, King Abdulaziz, and until 2015 was destined to succeed King Abdullah and occupy the kingdom’s throne. Eventually, bin Nayef appointed Dr. al-Jabri as Minister of State and made him his most senior and trusted adviser on matters of security and intelligence.

But Dr. al-Jabri’s standing changed suddenly in 2015, when King Abdullah died and was succeeded by King Salman. Salman then quickly began to rely on his son, Mohammed bin Salman, who he eventually named as his successor. That meant that Dr. al-Jabri’s mentor and protector, Prince bin Nayef, was effectively usurped. Bin Salman abruptly fired Dr. al-Jabri in September of 2015. Less than two years later, bin Nayef was dismissed from his post as Minister of Interior and went under house arrest in Saudi Arabia’s coastal resort city of Jeddah. Fearing for his life, Dr. al-Jabri took his eldest son, Khalid, and escaped to Canada in the middle of the night. They remain there to this day.

In a 106-page lawsuit, filed in August with the United States District Court in Washington, DC, Dr. al-Jabri claims that bin Salman sent spies to conduct physical surveillance on him. The lawsuit also claims that bin Salman dispatched members of his “personal mercenary group”, known as the Tiger Squad, to Canada, in order to assassinate Dr. al-Jabri. The members of the squad allegedly arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport sometime in mid-October 2018. The documents claim that the Tiger Squad members traveled to Canada just days after they were dispatched to Istanbul, Turkey, where they killed Saudi journalist Jamal al-Khashoggi. However, they were allegedly turned back by suspicious Canada Border Services Agency officers.

Dr. al-Jabri’s lawsuit relies on the 1991 Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows non-US citizens to file lawsuits in US courts for alleged human rights abuses that took place outside the US. But lawyers for the crown prince claim that he, along with his father, represent the top echelon of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family. As such, they claim, the crown prince is “entitled to status-based immunity from any suit in a US court”. Therefore, they argue, Dr. al-Jabri’s complaint “fails as a legal pleading”. The crown prince’s lawyers also accuse the plaintiff and his associates of having embezzled nearly $11 billion in funds belonging to the Saudi government.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 December 2020 | Permalink

Iranian authorities said to have photos of assassins of leading nuclear scientist

Mohamed AhwazeREPORTS IN BRITAIN AND Israel claim that Iranian authorities have visually identified the assassins who were allegedly involved in the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a nuclear scientist believed to have led Iran’s nuclear program. Fakhrizadeh was a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s elite paramilitary force. He was accused by the United States and Israel of leading the Islamic Republic’s nuclear weapons program, whose existence Tehran strongly denies.

Fakhrizadeh was killed on Friday during an armed assault that took place in the eastern outskirts of Tehran. He was attacked by assailants using automatic rifles, as he and his wife were traveling to Absard, a town located 60 miles east of the Iranian capital. His wife is also believed to have been killed in the attack, which lasted no more than 3 minutes and took place in broad daylight. Iranian leaders have accused Israel of the attack, and some believe the Israelis may have been provided with assistance from the United States. Israeli and American officials have not confirmed or denied that they were involved in Fakhrizadeh’s assassination.

Late on Sunday, Mohamed Ahwaze (a.k.a. Mohamed Majed), an Iranian-born reported based in Britain, tweeted photographs of four men, who are allegedly believed by the Iranian authorities to have been involved in Fakhrizadeh’s assassination. Ahwaze said that Iranian officials were busily distributing the photographs of the four men at various hotels and restaurants across Iran, and were asking for information about the alleged culprits. A few hours prior to Ahwaze’s tweet, a report from the state-owned FARS news agency in Iran claimed that the country’s Ministry of Intelligence had confirmed the identities of the assassins and that the details would soon be released to the public.

Earlier on Sunday, Ahwaze claimed on Twitter that over 60 intelligence operatives were involved in Fakhrizadeh’s killing, with the vast majority having a logistical role in the operation. He added that Iranian military units and IRGC forces had deployed along the Iranian border with Iraqi Kurdistan, believing that Fakhrizadeh’s assassins would try to exit Iranian territory by crossing the border on foot. Numerous Israeli media outlets are now reporting the information tweeted by Ahwaze on Sunday. However, the Israeli government has refused to comment on the claims.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 30 November 2020 | Permalink

More details emerge about alleged killing of al-Qaeda #2 in Iran by Israeli spies

Abu Mohammed al-Masri

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS SAYS it has confirmed a claim made last week by The New York Times, according to which an Israeli assassination team killed al-Qaeda’s deputy leader in a daring operation inside Iran in August. The paper said on November 13 that Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who went by the operational name Abu Muhammad al-Masri, had been assassinated in Tehran on August 7. He was the deputy leader of al-Qaeda, and was wanted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation for helping plan the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

On Sunday, the Associated Press said it was able to corroborate the The Times’ story with “four current and former US [intelligence] officials”, one of whom had “direct knowledge of the operation” and another, a former CIA officer, had been briefed about it. The news agency said the operation was carried out by Israel, acting on information given to it by the US. The Americans gave the Israelis information about al-Masri’s whereabouts in Iran, as well as the cover he was using to avoid detection.

Al-Masri was killed by a team of Israeli assassins while driving his car in a quiet street in the suburbs of Tehran, according to The Times. The assassins, who were riding on motorcycles, shot him with guns equipped with silencers. Al-Masri’s daughter, Maryam, who was riding with him in the car, was also killed. This was part of the plan, said the Associated Press. Al-Masri’s daughter was also the widow of Hamza bin Laden, the son of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. Hamza bin Laden was killed in 2019 by the US at the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to the Associated Press, US intelligence planners believed Maryam was “being groomed for a leadership role in al-Qaeda” and “was [already] involved in operational planning”.

Iranian media portrayed the incident as the murder of Habib Daoud, a Lebanese professor of history, who was gunned down in the Iranian capital along with his daughter by unknown suspects. In reality, said the Associate Press, the father and daughter were killed by the Kidon, (“tip of the spear” in Hebrew), an elite assassination unit within Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 November 2020 | Permalink

Opinion: Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination 25 years ago was an intelligence failure

Rabin Arafat

THE ASSASSINATION OF YITZHAK Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, on the evening of November 4, 1995, by an extreme right-wing Jew was one of the most traumatic events in the history of the State of Israel. Contrary to the public perception that the assassination happened as a result of a security failure and poor management of the Israel Security Agency (ISA), I argue that the murder was mainly due to an ISA intelligence failure.

“The Shamgar Inquiry Commission”, as it was known because it was chaired by Meir Shamgar, former president of the Supreme Court, submitted its report in March 1996. This commission found significant failures in the security measures taken by the ISA to protect the late Prime Minister. But, in my opinion, its findings were seriously wrong, as it avoided diving into the major intelligence failure that led to this tragic incident.

On the evening of November 4, 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was killed by Yigal Amir, a 27-year-old student who was known as an extreme rightwing activist. Amir was waiting for the prime minister next to his car and shot Rabin three times from a close distance, in spite of the fact that four of Rabin’s bodyguards were surrounding the prime minister. Amir claimed to have done it “for Israel, for the people of Israel and the State of Israel”. He was found guilty and was sent to serve a life sentence in prison.

The progress in the peace process with the Palestinians, known as the Oslo Accords of 1993, allowed the political breakthrough of a peace agreement with Jordan in October 1994. Rabin was awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres, for their role in the creation of the Oslo Accords.

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US spy agencies uncovered Iranian plot to kill American ambassador to South Africa

Lana MarksAn Iranian plot to kill the United States’ ambassador to South Africa was reportedly uncovered by American intelligence agencies, which believe Tehran is still seeking to avenge the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani in January of this year. The head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s elite paramilitary force, was killed by a US drone strike during a visit to the Iraqi capital Baghdad, sparking major tension between Washington and Tehran.

The news website Politico said on Sunday that the Iranian government had authorized a plan to kill Lana Marks (pictured), a South African-born American handbag designer, who is a longtime personal friend of US President Donald Trump. Marks, 66, assumed her post in October of this year. Citing “a US government official […] and another official who has seen the intelligence”, Politico said Marks had been “made aware of the threat”. The website added that the assassination plot against Marks involved operatives stationed at the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Pretoria.

According to the report, American spy agencies uncovered the plot several months ago. However, the confidence level regarding the intelligence was low. In recent weeks, the threat has become “more specific”, said Politico. This alleged plot aside, Politico said US intelligence agencies believe Tehran is weighing “several options” for avenging Soleimani’s killing, which include assassinating American diplomats abroad, as well as military commanders. On Monday, President Trump warned Iran on Twitter that “Any attack […], in any form, against the United States will be met with an attack on Iran that will be 1,000 times greater in magnitude!”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 September 2020 | Permalink

Slovakia expels three Russian diplomats in connection with 2019 murder in Berlin

Russian embassy in SlovakiaThree Russian diplomats have been ordered to leave Slovakia, reportedly in connection with the killing in Germany of a Chechen former separatist, which many believed was ordered by Moscow. On Monday, the Foreign Ministry of Slovakia confirmed media reports that three Russian diplomats had been declared ‘unwanted persons’ and ordered to leave the country.

The three diplomats are stationed at Russia’s embassy in Bratislava. They are believed to be intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover. A spokesman from the Slovak Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Monday, citing “information from the Slovak intelligence services”, according to which the three Russians engaged in “activities [that] were in contradiction with the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations”. Additionally, said the statement, Slovak authorities had uncovered “an abuse of visas issued at the Slovak general consulate in St. Petersburgh, and in this connection a serious crime was committed on the territory of another European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization member state”.

The statement did not elaborate on the specifics of the “serious crime”, but Slovak media report that it refers to the killing last August of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a leading figure in the Second Chechen War, which pitted the Russian military against groups of Muslim fighters in the North Caucasus between 1999 and 2009. Khangoshvili, a Muslim born in Georgia, was a bodyguard of Aslan Maskhadov, the self-described leader of the Muslim separatists in the Northern Caucasus. In 2015, Khangoshvili sought political asylum in Germany after two men tried to kill him in Tbilisi. The German authorities initially placed him on a terrorism watch list, but removed him after he began to collaborate with German counterterrorist agencies and participate in programs designed to de-radicalize Muslim youth. He was shot in broad daylight in Berlin by a man wearing a wig and carrying a pistol fitted with a silencer. Officials from the Berlin prosecutor’s office said at the time there were “indications the deed was pre-planned and may have political motives behind it”. It is now believed that at least one of the men suspected of involvement in planning Khangoshvili’s killing had traveled from Russia to the European Union on a visa issued by the Slovakian consulate in St. Petersburgh.

The three Russian diplomats have reportedly been told that they have until this coming Sunday to leave Slovakia. The Russian embassy in Bratislava said it would not comment on the expulsions. Kremlin officials have strongly denied that the Russian government had any ties to the killing of Khangoshvili. Moscow has vowed to expel an equal number of Slovak diplomats from the Russian capital in the coming days.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 August 2020 | Permalink

Canada thwarted plot to assassinate exiled Saudi former top spy, lawsuit alleges

Saad al-JabriCanadian border guards thwarted a sophisticated plot to kill a Saudi former senior intelligence official, who has been targeted by the oil kingdom’s crown prince because he served a rival member of the royal family, according to a lawsuit filed in an American court.

The target of the alleged assassination attempt is Dr. Saad al-Jabri, who rose through the ranks of the Saudi aristocracy in the 1990s, under the tutelage of his patron, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef. Prince bin Nayef is the grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch, King Abdulaziz, and until 2015 was destined to succeed King Abdullah and occupy the kingdom’s throne. Eventually, bin Nayef appointed Dr. al-Jabri as Minister of State and made him his most senior and trusted adviser on matters of security and intelligence.

But Dr. al-Jabri’s standing changed suddenly in 2015, when King Abdullah died and was succeeded by King Salman. Salman then quickly began to rely on his son, Mohammed Bin Salman, who he eventually named as his successor. That meant that Dr. al-Jabri’s mentor and protector, Prince bin Nayef, was effectively usurped. Bin Salman abruptly fired Dr. al-Jabri in September of 2015. Less than two years later, bin Nayef was dismissed from his post as Minister of Interior and went under house arrest in Saudi Arabia’s coastal resort city of Jeddah. That was effectively a bloodless palace coup, which purged bin Nayef and everyone who was closely associated with him. Fearing for his life, Dr. al-Jabri took his eldest son, Khalid, and escaped to Canada in the middle of the night. They remain there to this day.

Now a new 106-page lawsuit (.pdf), filed yesterday with the United States District Court in Washington, DC, claims that bin Salman sent spies to conduct physical surveillance on at least one of Dr. al-Jabri’s properties in the US, in an effort to locate him. The lawsuit also claims that bin Salman dispatched members of his “personal mercenary group”, known as the Tiger Squad, to Canada, in order to assassinate Dr. al-Jabri. The members of the squad allegedly arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport sometime in mid-October 2018. The documents claim that the Tiger Squad members traveled to Canada just days after they were dispatched to Istanbul, Turkey, where they killed Saudi journalist Jamal al-Khashoggi.

The lawsuit claims that the members of the assassination team attempted to enter Canada in small groups, using tourist visas, and did not declare their affiliation to the Saudi intelligence services. However, Canadian border guards became suspicious of the men, after realizing that they were part of a larger group. Prior to expelling them from Canada, Canadian border officials searched the men’s belongings and found “two bags of forensic tools”, according to the lawsuit. The suit further claims that the Tiger Squad included “forensic personnel experienced with the clean-up of crime scenes, including an instructor” who had links with “the forensic specialists who dismembered Khashoggi with a bone saw”.

The Saudi palace has made no comment about Dr. al-Jabri’s lawsuit. Earlier this year, Riyadh denied allegations of harassment by Dr. al-Jabri and his family, and claimed he is wanted in Saudi Arabia for financial discrepancies and corruption.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 07 August 2020 | Permalink

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